By Joe Sugarman
Have you seen the new video by young Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, otherwise known as 2Cellos? A lot of people have. It’s received more than 9 million views since its February 18 debut on YouTube.
The video is a cover version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” with Sulic and Hauser rocking out in front of an aghast audience dressed in formal Baroque garb. (Or “Ba-rock,” as the musicians have called their interpretation of the period.)
The number is a pretty impressive feat for a couple of classically trained musicians (even if they were already blessed with dark, European good looks and great hair).
Classical musicians crossing over into mainstream pop are nothing new, but with the viral nature of social media and sites like YouTube, acts like 2Cellos, Lindsay Stirling, and the Piano Guys, have been able to exponentially expand their audiences. Stirling may hold the classical crossover title, with her “Crystallize” video having received a whopping 88 million views in just over a year.
So, is classical music becoming the new pop, as New York Daily News writer Jim Farber recently asked?
Don’t scoff. Crossover classical music sales were actually up last year by 5 percent, as rock and country dipped 5.9 and 10.7 percent respectively.
Look at Billboard’s classical crossover chart the last few years and you’ll find a “Wild West” mix of traditionally non-classical musicians expanding into the classical realm (the Punch Brothers’s Chris Thile’s recent release of “Bach: Sonatas & Partitas 1” to Billy Joel’s “Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano”) and traditional classical musicians like crossover stalwarts Andrea Bocelli, soprano Sarah Brightman, and even the Balanescu String Quartet covering ‘80s electronica band Kraftwerk.
And did you catch pianist Lang Lang pounding the keys with Metallica on the Grammys?
There is a definite undercurrent of snobbery toward these crossover artists in some classical music circles. Are a couple of guys playing AC/DC on cello just a novelty act? Are these musicians sell-outs? Will any of the 9 million viewers who watched the 2Cello video someday turn into classical music fans? (To note, the duo’s least watched performances on YouTube, by far, are the ones in which they actually perform works by classical music composers.)
But do any of these questions even matter as long as people are enjoying the music? Could this genre be just the thing to spark a young person’s interest in classical music or, after watching 2Cello’s banging their heads to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” to even to pick up an instrument?
Check out our Facebook page and let us know what you think of the genre, and if you have a favorite classical crossover musician—or not.